Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game.
Born Jeffrey Atkins in Queens, New York, Rule’s rap career began in the ‘90s as a member of the collective Cash Money Click. The group struck a deal with TVT Records and released the singles “4 My Click” and “Get the Fortune” in 1996 before later disbanding. Rule maintained a relationship with Irv Gotti, who produced many of the group’s tracks, and embarked on a solo career. Gotti’s work with Def Jam artists DMX and JAY-Z led to him eventually having his own boutique label called Murder Inc. Thus, Rule became the label’s flagship artist and the rapper released his debut album Venni Vetti Vecci in 1999.
Though the MC’s freshman project debuted at No. 3 on the US Billboard 200 charts and sold 184,000 copies in its first week, his follow up efforts Rule 3:36 and Pain is Love both topped the Billboard charts and Rule became one of the industry’s most successful emcees of that era. Known for his classic anthems with Lil’ Mo, Ashanti, and J. Lo, he carved the rapper/singer lane in the early 2000s. As time moved on, Rule would find himself as the bud of many jokes on social media for various mishaps — from his beef with 50 Cent to the infamous Fyre Festival.
On Sept. 15, Rule got the chance to silence his haters during his Verzuz matchup with Fat Joe. His performance was the highlight of the show and he successfully proved to fans and naysayers why he’s a staple in the culture.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from “Drink Champs’” Ja Rule interview. Take a look at them below.
1. On Getting Calls to Appear on Verzuz
Rule said he knew he was going to be asked to do a Verzuz battle once he received back-to-back calls from the series’ founder Swizz Beatz. “It was in the morning when I started getting the calls. I missed the calls. I got a call from Swizz, now Swizz don’t normally call me. The real shit is, I thought it was the other dude (alluding to 50 Cent). That’s the Verzuz that everybody’s been trying to make. So then, after that, I looked at my next missed call and it was Fat Joe. So then, I called Swizz and [he] was like, ‘You want to do it?’ We put this together in two weeks. I really didn’t have prep time. Verzuz is what it is. But, it’s no longer a friendly celebration. When you go into the doghouse, it’s the doghouse. I used to box too, so I know what it feels like to get in the ring and spar.”
2. On Making Crossover Music
Though Rule’s music was grimier during his days with the Cash Money Click in the ‘90s, he became a crossover king years later. He explained to N.O.R.E. and EFN that he’s confused by hip hop fans’ tendency to write off rappers who have gone commercial. “When [a rapper] starts to create records that are bigger than life, this should make niggas proud,” he said. “So, I think the narrative is fucked up. When you look at a nigga like Drake, he ain’t soft on the mic. He can spit. On that mic, he’s dangerous. But, because he makes a certain type of record, niggas look at it as soft. See, that’s always been our thing in hip hop. Because we’ve always been the underdogs, or the outcasts. So, if a rapper made it bigger than what that is, he was commercial. We shouldn’t do that to our legends. We shouldn’t do that to our icons. We the only genre that does this shit.”
3. On Always Staying True to Himself
Rule’s crossover appeal has gleaned him opportunities to perform at numerous concerts with pop artists over the years. On “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. asked the rapper how it feels to be the only Black artist at many of these shows and Rule said that he has no problem staying true to himself. “I’m always Black,” he said. “I don’t give a fuck where I am at. This is the beauty of Ja Rule. I get to be me. I don’t have to put on a façade. I’m me. And sometimes, me comes across shocking to people. People are shocked that I play golf. People are surprised that I went to fucking Harvard and got a certificate.”
4. On Not Playing R. Kelly Records During the Verzuz Battle
Both Rule and Fat Joe have duets with R. Kelly in their catalogues. But according to Rule, the emcees made the collective decision ahead of their Verzuz battle to not perform the tracks. On “Drink Champs,” the rapper explained that Kelly, who is currently on trial for sex trafficking, is “flawed.” However, he questioned if the singer’s works should be completely disregarded amid the controversy. “R. Kelly is flawed,” he said. “He’s a flawed man. Nobody’s perfect. What he’s done is what he’s done, and he has to account for [it]. But the art — Do we throw it away? Me and Fat Joe had a conversation about it. It’s such a touchy subject.”
5. On His Critics
In the early 2000s, Rule was on top of the world. But, following Murder Inc.’s federal indictment and 50 Cent’s infamous feud with the label, the rapper’s popularity severely waned. Since then, critics on social media have continuously made fun of the rapper’s follies over the years. When asked about his critics, Rule explained that he receives love in the streets and the hate that he receives happens strictly on the Internet. “It really lives mostly online for me,” he said. “When I don’t want to see the bullshit, I stay offline.”
The rapper also explained that the Verzuz battle helped with cementing his legacy in the game. “I feel like they are starting to feel what I’ve been going through and what the whole situation was,” he said. “Now, it’s a different feeling and I thanked Swizz, too.”
6. On Fat Joe’s Comments Against Lil’ Mo and Vita
Though Rule and Fat Joe’s Verzuz battle was surely a “win” for hip hop, drama ensued during the event after the latter called Lil’ Mo and rapper Vita “dusty crack house bitches.” Following the event, Lil’ Mo spoke out about the insults, and Fat Joe apologized to the two artists and admitted that he took things too far. Rule discussed the incident on “Drink Champs” and said he pushed the “Lean Back” rapper to apologize. “Vita was hurt. I don’t like the social media shit. We’re all family, we can talk about these things off record,” he said. “We all have each other’s numbers. But, here’s what people got to understand. Here’s what I told Crack…I said, ‘Crack, you fucked up.’ You disrespected these Black queens. What you got to do is you have to own it and apologize. There’s no other way around it. When you say something that offends somebody, you don’t get to tell them how they felt about what you said. That’s the thing that people have to realize when they say offensive shit.”
7. On the Blood in My Eye Album
During Rule’s war with 50 Cent, he released the 2003 album Blood in My Eye, which took aim at his adversaries and featured the diss track “Clap Back.” Though the LP debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold 139,000 in its first week, it didn’t compare to the success of his earlier projects. The rapper told N.O.R.E. and EFN that he originally intended for the project to be a mixtape, but his label wanted it to be released as an album. “I didn’t make it as an album, I made it as a mixtape,” he said. “But I was such a big artist, the label was like, ‘Nah nigga, we can make a couple dollars off this thing.’ For me, it was wrong, because I knew it wouldn’t be received like my other shit. It’s not going to go triple platinum. I knew that it was going to be a scar on my [discography]. But, they seen it as a money opportunity. It wasn’t what I wanted. It was my warrior paint album.”
8. On Murder Inc.’s Federal Indictment
50 Cent’s feud with Murder Inc. exploded after the release of his 2002 single “Wanksta,” which took aim at Rule. Blood in My Eye, Rule’s response album, wasn’t released until the following year. When asked by N.O.R.E. why his rebuttal took so long, Rule explained that Murder Inc.’s federal indictment prevented him from releasing music. “I wasn’t under federal indictment, but they got Irv and Chris Gotti,” Rule said. “But they drain you out of everything. They drain your resources. So that you can’t fight them. How you going to fight a rap battle with one of the biggest conglomerates in the world?”
9. Irv Gotti on Nelly and Ashanti’s Hug
Nelly popped up during Rule and Fat Joe’s Verzuz battle, and made it a point to walk across the stage to hug Ashanti, who is his former flame. During “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. FaceTimed Gotti, who also dated the singer. When asked about Nelly and Ashanti’s hug, Gotti said he wasn’t fazed. “What everyone needs to know is me and Nelly are cool and shit,” he admitted. “It’s no thing with Ashanti. That’s completely over and dead. I’m happy for whatever she does. I’m on a path to become a billionaire.”